UNA students, faculty return to Shoals with professional awards

Building successful future leaders is a motto UNA tends to live by.

Assistant Professor of Communications Beth Garfrerick represented UNA well, bringing home the 2014 Public Relations Council of Alabama Educator of the Year Award.

“Thirty-five years ago as a cub reporter for the TimesDaily, I envisioned I wanted to end my career as a publisher for a small newspaper,” Garfrerick said. “I’m so glad my life took an unplanned turn, and I ended up in higher education.”

Garfrerick said the Huntsville North Alabama Chapter of PRCA nominated her for the prestigious award.

“It’s an extreme honor to be recognized by my peers on a state level,” she said.

The Council also named 17 of Garfrericks’s students award winners for their achievements April 1-3 at the PRCA State Conference in Montgomery, including senior Savannah McKinney as PRCA Student of the Year.

McKinney said she is incredibly grateful for the honor of being named Alabama PR student of the year.

“It’s an incredible feeling to work so hard for four years and to receive reassurance that your hard work is paying off,” she said.

McKinney said she had several part-time PR jobs that helped her grow to love her passion of PR, like her current position as Communications Director for the Tennessee Valley Art Association.

Similar to Jim Carrey in “Yes Man,” she said she has become a “yes girl” by reaching for every opportunity as it is presented.

Senior KeKoria Greer won two awards from the three proposals she submitted — the Merit Award in Organizational Identity for her “Greer Campaign” as current SGA president and also took the top Award of Excellence spot in Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities for her UNA PanHellenic recruitment video.

“This is very humbling for me,” Greer said about her awards. “I was excited for my PR work to be seen outside my professors and held at a high regard.”

Both McKinney and Greer said “Dr. G” played an important role as the backbone of their support system.

“She engages her students rather than lecturing with no feedback, she encourages everyone to get involved, she sees the value in everyone and she realizes that no two students are the same,” McKinney said. “And she doesn’t let you slack. When she sees your potential, she makes sure you reach it.”

Professor of Psychology Larry Bates was recognized as the Southeastern Psychological Association’s Mentor of the Year at a conference in Hilton Head, South Carolina over spring break.

Bates said he would place the award’s emphasis on one word — teamwork.

“I couldn’t have won this without help from the students,” he said. “They’re presenting research and succeeding.”